LEGAL EAGLE: Has your landlord spent your deposit?

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In my experience as a housing solicitor, it surprises me how many people (both landlords and tenants) do not know about the strict rules about the protection of tenancy deposits.

If you have an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, your landlord is required to protect your deposit in a Government-backed scheme within 30 days of the deposit being paid.

On top of that, your landlord must also serve you with all of the required information about which scheme your deposit is in.

Landlords can find themselves in hot water if they don’t do this.

Not protecting the deposit is a legal claim in itself, but your landlord may also have trouble evicting you, and could potentially leave themselves open to unlawful eviction claims.

It’s therefore worth finding out if your deposit is protected, and you can search online to see if your tenancy details are registered with any of the protection schemes.

If you think your deposit is not registered, you should seek advice from a solicitor, Shelter or the Citizens Advice Bureau about your legal rights.

This is especially important if you are already having problems with your landlord, and you fear they may ask you to leave the property.

Unfortunately, I often find that many landlords do not realise the responsibilities that the law places on them, and the protection that is offered to tenants.

Further rules have come in to play on October 1 to protect tenants from being evicted as a result of making a complaint about the condition of the property.

This means that if your property is not up to scratch and you received notice to move out shortly after complaining to your landlord, your landlord may be acting unlawfully and you may be protected by the new law.

Additionally, if your landlord wants to give you notice to move out (for any reason) there’s a new format that the landlord must ensure the notice complies with.

If the notice does not comply, then it is invalid and the landlord cannot rely on it when seeking possession of your home.

The rules are complex and – whether you’re a landlord or a tenant – it’s always best to seek professional advice to find out where you stand.

Legal aid is still available for many housing cases, which means that tenants who are on a low income or in receipt of benefits may get help from a solicitor for free.

Unfortunately there is no legal aid for landlords but many solicitors are now offering competitive prices and fixed fees, so it’s worth getting a few quotes and weighing up the cost of the advice against what you might end up paying out if your tenant takes you to court for getting it all wrong.

• Paula Harris is Head of David Gray Solicitors’ Housing Team and is available for appointments in both their South Shields and Newcastle offices.

You can contact Paula for a no-obligation chat by calling 0191 243 8160 or Chat Live 24/7 by visiting